It’s been awesome to see the response that blogs about Lions are receiving. For those that have been following the story of the different Prides, the update is as follows:
Matters with the Tsalala Pride have become a little bit complicated now that the pride has been split into two. See Tom Imrie’s piece as to why he believes this has happened. The outcome has been that the legendary Tailess female has pulled the four surviving 2-year old females away from all the trouble moving them towards our Western Break both north and south of the Sand River. Recent sightings of these 5 means we can be sure they are surviving the latest Majigilane maneuver purely by keeping out of their way. Still under the guidance and leadership of Tailess one still has to back their chances of survival.
Trouble though seems to have been brewing on the eastern front of Londolozi as we are now seeing the 2 remaining Tsalala females more regularly. The sad thing is that of late, these sightings have been of them apart. News from our east suggests that the one female did indeed drop young sometime in early January/late December and that these cubs (thought to be two) are doing well at the moment denned up on Stweiss Koppie. We wait in anticipation for our first glimpse of these new additions. Sadly it appears that her sister must have lost her litter as she has been seen three times in the last week, alone, calling, and not lactating. On the 19th January she was even observed mating, once again, with one of the Majingilanes!
After avoiding the Majingilanes for some time the Sparta Pride as a whole are now bearing the brunt of these formidable males. On the 21st of December the breakaway two Sparta females managed to make two buffalo kills off Weavers Nest quarry. All the noise and commotion must have been heard by the patrolling males, who stealth fully moved in and caught two of the cubs. The third managed to survive the attack but only because of the bravery of one of the adult females. We can tell this by the sheer number of scars and bite marks she has, even one month after the incident. One has to feel for the sole surviving cub as he now has to roam around the bush under the watchful eyes of the two Sparta females; expecting a hiding shadow around every corner.
We were all a bit surprised on the morning of the 3rd January to find one of the breakaway Sparta females, one Majingilane (the one with the skinned nose), a wildebeest carcass, a dead hyena and lots of lion tracks at the same place near Shingi Dam. Our interpretation of the events were that the two Sparta females must have killed the wildebeest, who together with their sole surviving cub, fed on the kill before the male arrived on the scene. Another fight must have prevailed but fortunately the cub was led away to safety by one of the females. The other female was not so fortunate and was almost held captive by the male. An inquisitive hyena came through hoping to scavenge some scraps and was caught by the male in much the same way as the Majingilane Murder last year. It is not thought that the Majingilane mated with the female that day as she was seen reunited with the cub and sister 2 days later. Since then the three of them have been on the run. With one female badly injured, one has to feel that it is a matter of time…
As for the remainder of the Sparta Pride, they too have suffered a set back. One young male was seen coming off second best in a failed buffalo hunt. Although his body was never found, he was in a very poor state and it is now assumed that the buffalo got the better of him.
This footage below was taken by Londolozi Tree Camp Guests, Jason and Brooke Miller. This occurred a few weeks ago when the Sparta Pride was still numbering 9. They had just brought down a waterbuck and were looking formidable as the wet summer season began in earnest.
Of late we have been encountering 6 Sparta lions, this consists of the Tsalala Young Male, 2 young males and 3 young females. The oldest female of the group was found yesterday by Rich Ferrier and Mike Miller on her own. Potentially she has come back into season and is now looking to mate. (Who she finds is going to be fascinating!) This means that a young female is missing and circumstantial evidence suggests that the Majingilanes had a fight about a week ago with the Pride and possibly this explains her absence. Most of the Pride are sporting a few wounds as is the darkest of the Majingilanes.
The two females with the single cub have not been seen since there failed attempt with the herd of buffalo. I have no doubt that they are lurking around the south in good health.
With the heavy rains that we have been experiencing for the past week, the Majingilanes have not been able to cross south over the swollen Sand River. So for now it’s all quiet in the turbulent lives of the Sparta Pride. At the moment the males are pre-occupied with mating the Tsalala lioness that hasn’t had cubs and that may just buy a little bit more time for the beleaguered Sparta Pride. Worth remembering however is that the Sparta youngsters were all born in early to mid- 2007 and as such the females will be coming into season soon. That will properly shake things up around here.
Following some of the debate regarding coalitions: I don’t think we’ll ever see a fight between the Mapogo and Majingilanes`. Both have lots of territory and an adequate number of females. Fights between adult males (that I’ve witnessed in the Sabi Sands) are usually between the have’s (resident males) and the have nots (young males new to the area.) I think it’s fair to say that the Majingilanes are now resident and I would be very surprised to see any further territorial ambitions beyond some unfinished business with the Sparta Pride. The next coalition to occupy the western sector could well be the Tsalala young male and his 2 Sparta brothers. To do this they will have to bide their time for 2 years, stay out of the Majingilane’s way and then evict their fathers from the West.
Please continue to leave your questions, thoughts, predictions and opinions in the comments below.
Written by: Tom Imrie and Adam Bannister